Huu-ay-aht teen brings home softball bronze from North American Indigenous Games

Sam Laskaris, July 24, 2017

Arianna Johnson-Sabbas is supported by her teamates after suffering a knee injury at the NAIG in Ontario. Along with B.C.'s under-16 girls squad, the Alberni District Secondary School student earned a bronze in the tournament. (Submitted photo)

Hamilton, Ontario — 

It was definitely a week of mixed emotions for Arianna Johnson-Sabbas.
The 14-year-old member of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations was on the British Columbia girls’ under-16 softball squad that competed at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG).
Johnson-Sabbas was playing right field for the squad in its second game of the tournament when she injured her left knee while making a diving catch.
“I dove for the ball and landed funny on my knee,” she said. “They sent me to the hospital where they told me I pulled a ligament.”
Johnson-Sabbas was then given crutches to get around, forcing her to miss the remainder of her team’s NAIG matches.
“Her on-field contributions were halted due to the injury,” said Joni Frei, the head coach of the B.C. under-16 squad. “But she did everything we asked of her off the field and in the dugout."
Besides providing vocal support for her teammates, Johnson-Sabbas was also given some additional duties.
“I made sure all the equipment was where it was needed to be,” she said.
Despite her injury, Johnson-Sabbas said she is going to prefer to remember all of the positives she experienced during the week.
Like the fact her club captured the bronze medal in its age grouping. A total of nine teams had entered the girls’ under-16 division.
Johnson-Sabbas and her teammates defeated New York in its first round-robin contest. B.C. was then blanked 6-0 by Ontario, in the match that she was injured.
B.C. rebounded from that setback to blank the Quebec-based entry called Eastern Door and the North 25-0 in its final round-robin game.
The club’s gold-medal aspirations, however, were dashed when it was downed 13-0 by California in a semi-final outing.
Members of the B.C. side then earned themselves some hardware by beating Wisconsin 2-0 in the bronze-medal match.
California took home the gold, thumping Ontario 12-2 in the championship final.
Prior to the NAIG, Johnson-Sabbas only knew a couple of the players on Team B.C. But they all became fast friends and a cohesive unit on the field.
“We all played well together and we all worked hard,” she said, adding she exchanged contact information with those she didn’t previously know and does plan to keep in touch with them. “And we were very supportive of each other.”
After her summer break is over, Johnson-Sabbas will begin her Grade 10 studies at Alberni District Secondary School in Port Alberni. She played for the school’s softball team this past season and plans to do the same next year.
As for her more immediate future, Johnson-Sabbas was planning to see a doctor upon returning home to determine the extent of her knee injury.
This past March she also banged up her left knee while playing basketball, competing with the Hesquiaht Storm at the Junior All-Native Tournament in Kelowna. She required physiotherapy on her knee following that setback.
This year’s NAIG, which attracted about 5,000 participants, was staged in Toronto and surrounding areas.
The softball competition was staged at Turner Park in Hamilton, located about an hour drive from Toronto.
Opening ceremonies for the Games were held last Sunday (July 16).
Athletes then participated in 14 sports throughout the week. Action began on Monday and finished up Saturday.
Closing ceremonies were also on Saturday.